(UPDATES) DOD Announces the Distinguished Warfare Medal

Front of Distinguished Warfare Medal, designed to recognize service members directly affecting combat operations who may not even be on the same continent as the action. DOD graphic

UPDATE VII:

Notwithstanding the public outcry — including from military and veterans organizations — over the order of precedence of the new Distinguished Warfare Medal (DWM), the Pentagon has decided to retain its present order of precedence which now places the DWM just below the Distinguished Flying Cross and above the Bronze Star.

“We are not diminishing at all the importance of the Bronze Star — that remains an important award for our combat troops and will remain so …We expect this award to be granted pretty rarely, and that factored in to the decision [on its precedence],” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today, according to the American Forces Press Service (AFPS).

AFPS adds:

To be eligible to receive the award, a service member has to have direct, hands-on employment, such as an unmanned aerial vehicle operator dropping a bomb or a cyber specialist detecting and fending off a computer network attack.
Combatant commanders must certify the impacts of the action before the award is forwarded to the service secretary for approval. The secretaries may not delegate that authority.

Read more here.

—-
UPDATE VI:

Through the White House’s “We the People — Your Voice in our Government” petition process signatures are being gathered for a petition to the Obama Administration to lower the precedence of the new Distinguished Warfare Medal.

The Petition reads:

The Pentagon is introducing a new medal to recognize the service of pilots of unmanned drones during combat operations. This medal will be placed in precedence order just below the Distinguished Flying Cross and just above a Bronze Star Medal. Bronze Stars are commonly awarded with a Valor device in recognition of a soldier’s service in the heat of combat while on the ground in the theater of operation. Under no circumstance should a medal that is designed to honor a pilot, that is controlling a drone via remote control, thousands of miles away from the theater of operation, rank above a medal that involves a soldier being in the line of fire on the ground. This is an injustice to those who have served and risked their lives and this should not be allowed to move forward as planned.

If interested in signing this petition, please click here.

As of this writing, almost 96,000 signatures have been gathered, of the 100,000 needed.

====

UPDATE V:

Add the Veterans of Foreign Wars to the growing number of organizations (and individuals) who have serious issues with the precedence or rank that the Pentagon has given the new Distinguished Warfare Medal.

Military.com reports:

“The VFW fully concurs that those far from the fight are having an immediate impact on the battlefield in real-time, but medals that can only be earned in direct combat must mean more than medals awarded in the rear,” VFW National Commander John E. Hamilton said in a statement released Thursday. “The VFW urges the Department of Defense to reconsider the new medal’s placement in the military order of precedence.”

Hamilton said the new medal and its ranking “could quickly deteriorate into a morale issue.”

====

UPDATE IV:

Perhaps stung by the controversy created by the announcement of the new Distinguished Warfare Medal and by the “precedence” of the medal over other decorations, Juliet Beyler, the acting director of officer and enlisted personnel management in the Pentagon has attempted to clarify some aspects.

Jim Garamone at the American Forces Press Service:

Beyler said in an interview that technological developments on the battlefield have changed the way service members fight.

“The services all came forward and said there are people … who are doing incredible things and we wanted the ability to recognize them for those things,” she said.

There are no existing awards that adequately recognize the contributions these service members make. Examples of the actions that would be recognized by the new medal include a service member who is involved in a cyber attack on a specific military target.

“That would be someone possibly who would be eligible for this award,” Beyler said.

Another possible recipient would be an unmanned aerial vehicle operator who takes out a specific military target. “Another example might be a service member who is orchestrating and moving troops on a battlefield, but perhaps, is not physically present, but does something that contributes in some extraordinary way to the battle,” Beyler said.

Each service secretary is going to develop the specific procedures for who is eligible to receive the award. The service member has to have direct hands-on employment in order to be eligible. Combatant commanders must certify the impacts of the action before the award is forwarded to the service secretary for approval. The service secretaries are the approving authorities and those authorities cannot be delegated, Beyler said.

“This is for direct impacts,” she said. “There are other meritorious awards that recognize service over a period of time — this [award] is intended to recognize specific impacts on the battlefield.”

The criteria for the award is akin to that of the Distinguished Flying Cross. “The Distinguished Flying Cross is for a single impact, a single incident, and the Distinguished Warfare [Medal] is designed to address a single incident,” she said.

The award’s precedence is what is making the award controversial. Many veterans’ service organizations object that the award will have a higher precedence than the Bronze Star Medal.

“The award is directly below the Distinguished Flying Cross,” Beyler said. “Awards for valor — the Medal of Honor, the service Crosses and the Silver Star — are all higher in precedence that the Distinguished Warfare Medal and will remain so.”

The vast majority of Bronze Star Medals are not awarded for valor, she said. Only 2.4 percent of Bronze Stars are given with a V device connoting a valor award. Depending on the service, the V-device can also be awarded with commendation medals.

===

UPDATE III:

Criticism of the Department of Defense’s new medal to recognize military members’ extraordinary achievements, including those who remotely pilot unmanned, armed aerial vehicles, has not only come from outside the military, but it has now “sparked an uproar among troops and veterans when it revealed that a new high-level medal honoring drone pilots will rank above some traditional combat valor medals in the military’s ‘order of precedence.’”

As I have stated in my comments on this issue, while I recognize the purpose of the medal, I have problems with the “precedence” given the new Distinguished Warfare Medal (DWM).

Because of the high “precedence” assigned to the medal, it will rank just below the Distinguished Flying Cross and it will rank above the Bronze Star with Valor device, awarded to troops for specific heroic acts performed under fire in combat.

Read more on the backlash among our military here

UPDATE II:

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has provided additional information on the new medal:

“This new medal recognizes the changing character of warfare and those who make extraordinary contributions to it,” said the general. “The criteria for this award will be highly selective and reflect high standards.”

The most immediate example is the work of an unmanned aerial vehicle operator who could be operating a system over Afghanistan while based at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The unmanned aerial vehicle would directly affect operations on the ground. Another example is that of a soldier at Fort Meade, Md., who detects and thwarts a cyberattack on a DOD computer system.

The medal could be used to recognize both these exceptional acts, officials said.

In the order of precedence, the Distinguished Warfare Medal will be below the Distinguished Flying Cross, and will be limited to achievements that are truly extraordinary. “The member’s actions must have resulted in an accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding as to clearly set the individual apart from comrades or from other persons in similar situations,” a DOD official said.

The military department secretary must approve each award, and it may not be presented for valorous actions. “This limitation was specifically included to keep the Distinguished Warfare Medal from detracting from existing valor decorations, such as the Medal of Honor, Service Crosses and Silver Star Medal,” the official said.

Back of medal. DoD Graphic

UPDATE I:

As expected, the criticism to the Department of Defense’s announcement that it has created a new medal to recognize a service member’s extraordinary achievements directly impacting combat operations, including those who remotely pilot unmanned but armed aerial vehicles, has been swift to come.

At the Atlantic Wire we read:

While the move will undoubtedly rankle some of the infantrymen and Special Forces veterans who get shot at on a near daily basis during their combat deployments, the Pentagon is eager to find some way to recognize the achievements of those who are fighting modern battles, but just happen to be doing so from a computer lab or flight simulator instead of the war zone…

And,

Yet a successful drone pilot creating air cover for a squadron on the ground can save just as many lives as one who takes a bullet for fellow soldier. That’s not the same level of heroism, obviously, but it only seems fair that they get some recognition for their contributions. And “real pilots” will still insist that they not share the same medal with drone operators. As one Air Force colonel told Politico last year, “The basic fact of the matter is no one is shooting back at you. That makes a big difference. Combat pilots respect drone pilots, but I think we’d be uneasy about it if they were to get the same award.”

CODA: This reaction by the Atlantic Wire is relatively mild. We’ll report others, too.

===

Original Post

In a move that is certainly to fan the attack drone controversy, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced today the creation of the Distinguished Warfare Medal to recognize a service member’s extraordinary achievements directly impacting combat operations.

According to DoD:

Modern technology enables service members with special training and capabilities to more directly and precisely impact military operations at times far from the battlefield. The Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded in the name of the secretary of defense to service members whose extraordinary achievements, regardless of their distance to the traditional combat theater, deserve distinct department-wide recognition.

“I have seen first-hand how modern tools like remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems have changed the way wars can be fought,” said Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta. “We should also have the ability to honor extraordinary actions that make a true difference in combat operations, even if those actions are physically removed from the fight.”

Based on the order of precedence, the Distinguished Warfare Medal will sit directly below the Distinguished Flying Cross. It may be awarded for actions in any domain but not involving acts of valor.

“This new medal recognizes the changing character of warfare and those who make extraordinary contributions to it,” said Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey. “The criteria for this award will be highly selective and reflect high standards.”

The medal, designed by The Institute of Heraldry, will be available in the coming months. The signed memo, criteria for the medal, along with the design, can be seen here

  

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

Share This Post On